Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

May 24, 2022

Dine' Elsie Begay honored with Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award at International Uranium Film Festival

Navajo Grandmother Elsie Begaye honored with Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award
by International Uranium Film Festival

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
Watch video of the presentation
Watch the movie 'The Return of Navajo Boy'

"The people could have still been alive," says Dine' Grandmother Elsie Begay as she describes how Dine' were never told about the dangers of radiation and uranium mining. 

"This movie not only brought back my brother, but it is helping people," Begay said of the movie, 'Return of Navajo Boy.'

Dine' grandmother Elsie Begay, 83, of Monument Valley was honored with the Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Uranium Film Festival. Begay received her award in Dine' and English languages yesterday.

The uranium and nuclear industry targeted Indigenous Peoples around the world with mining and atomic bomb testing, leaving behind strewn radioactive tailings on the Navajo Nation and around the world. The film fest brought together Dine' and Indigenous of Brazil who have been targeted by the industry.

John Wayne Cly, Dine', and Petuuche Gilbert of Acoma Pueblo, speak on the Zoom presentation.

Petuuche tells of the radiation from the Jackpile Mine, and the nuclear production that continues at Los Alamos Labs in northern New Mexico. Uranium mining left behind a trail of cancer and death for Acoma and Laguna uranium miners. Petuuche warned that the U.S. is currently attempting to bring nuclear waste to New Mexico.

Speaking to the International Uranium Film Festival yesterday, Petuuche said, "We should not allow our Nations to build atomic bombs." 

Watch the live stream of the presentation below. There are 30 films available to watch for free until May 29, 2022.

Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award 2022
International Uranium Film Festival 2022 honors Elsie Begay from the Navajo Nation

By International Uranium Film Festival
Censored News

Every year the International Uranium Film Festival (IUFF) honors special personalities of the "atomic age“ with its Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award. This year, 2022, Elsie Mae Begay, the great-great Navajo grandmother from Monument Valley featured in the documentary The Return of Navajo Boy by Jeff Spitz receives the festival’s Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award 20222.

Since the 1940s the Navajo Nation suffers because of uranium mining to fuel the nuclear arms arsenal of the United States of America. Like no other film before it, "The Return of Navajo Boy“ brought this fact to the public and mobilized people in the US and around the world. Grandmother Elsie was not only the main character of this unique documentary film. With her enduring commitment, she greatly helped her Navajo Nation spread the truth about the horrific effects of uranium mining on her people. With Navajo leaders, she lobbied the US congress to clean up abandoned uranium mines and radioactive homes and provide safe drinking water for Navajo families in affected communities. Credited by the Associated Press with prompting the first clean-up of an abandoned uranium mine, Grandmother Elsie, now 83 years old, continues to advocate for environmental justice.

International Uranium Film Festival director Norbert G. Suchanek says: "We honor Elsie Mae Begay for her leadership and creative contributions in the documentary film, The Return of Navajo Boy and for her courage in traveling thousands of miles to meet educators, students, journalists, and government officials all across the United States, especially in Washington DC. Through 15 webisodes showing what happened after the documentary, through her statements at public screenings and through her interviews with reporters who write about Elsie’s life experiences in Monument Valley her gentle voice continues to touch people’s hearts all around the world.“

"Together with film director Jeff Spitz and the Groundswell team you have succeeded in telling a powerful story that shows the importance of documentary filmmaking, Navajo culture, family history and above all the dangers of uranium contamination. For all these reasons, the 11th International Uranium Film Festival honors Great-Great-Grandmother Elsie with our Lifetime Achievement Award.“

International Uranium Film Fest Brings Together Dine' and Brazil's Indigenous

Uranium Film Festival brings together, for the first time in history, Navajo who suffered for more than 40 years because of uranium mining and its radioactive heritage and indigenous peoples in Brazil who are threatened with a planned uranium-phosphate mine in Ceará. Meet Navajo grandmother Elsie Begay and John Wayne Cly, Elvis Tabajara, Teka Potyguara, Jardel Potyguara and Toinho Gavião.
Moderation by Jeff Spitz (USA) and Miguel Silveira (Brazil). Language: English, Navajo, Portuguese.

Navajo - Brazil: Watch now the live event with Uranium Film Festival director Marcia Gomes, Navajo Elsie Begay, John Wayne Cly, Elvis Tabajara, Teka Potyguara, Jardel Potyguara e Toinho Gavião, Acoma Petuuche Gilbert, Filmmakers Jeff Spitz & Miguel Silveira.

(English/Portuguese) and watch more than 30 nuclear films for free online until May 29, 2022, here:

In Memory of Dine' Filmmaker Bennie Klain

In memory of Dine' filmmaker Bennie Klain, we share our interview with Bennie, coproducer of 'Return of Navajo Boy,' who passed to the Spirit World far too young. Bennie told the story of Elsie Begay, 83, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award yesterday from the International Uranium Film Festival.
MONUMENT VALLEY, Utah – 'John Wayne and John Ford were not around when Happy Cly – the most photographed Navajo woman in the 1950s – died from lung disease from uranium mining.
'John Wayne and John Ford were long gone when the Cly family mourned for 40 years the loss of their beloved two-year-old boy taken away by white missionaries.
'Now, documentary film co-producers Jeff Spitz and Bennie Klain, Navajo from Tonalea, tell the rest of the story.'

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